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BASF and Renmatix to produce industrial sugars from biomass

German company BASF and US technology provider Renmatix have formed a joint venture to scale up the Renmatix Plantrose process for the production of industrial sugars based on lignocellulosic biomass.

The two companies signed a non-exclusive agreement, under which they have agreed to key financial terms for future commercial licenses. The collaboration follows BASF's $30 million (€22 million) investment in Renmatix in January 2012.

'Raw material change will only be possible via process innovations that allow the utilisation of alternative sources of raw materials,' explains Peter Schuhmacher, president of BASF's competence center Process Research and Chemical Engineering. It requires processes like Plantrose, which will be further developed in a joint effort, that enable the use of non-edible biomass as a chemical feedstock and which do not compete with food or feed production.'

The Plantrose technology enables industrial sugar to be produced, at competitive costs, from a variety of non-edible biomass (lignocellulose) sources. The proprietary process breaks down lignocellulosic sources such as wood, agricultural residues and straw, into industrial sugars using supercritical water (water at high temperature and pressure).

Industrial sugars are important building blocks for various basic chemicals and intermediates that can be produced, for example, by fermentative processes. The availability of these industrial sugars in sufficient quantities and at competitive cost is important to enable both environmentally friendly and cost competitive bio-based products. Incorporating biomass feedstocks as a first step in the value chain, creates a raw material change that can reduce reliance on fossil raw material sources like naphtha as principal feedstock.